Governor Markell Gives Godowsky Authority To Replace SBAC With SAT Without General Assembly Approval Or An Executive Order

It took a lot of work for the General Assembly to implement the Smarter Balanced Assessment into Delaware State Code.  Now Governor Markell has granted Secretary of Education Godowsky the authority to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment from the lives of high school juniors and replace it with the SAT.  Here’s the problem, the SAT is not considered to be a state assessment as defined in Delaware law.  Funding for the SAT to be provided to all Delaware students was part of a Race To The Top grant, and now that funding is gone.  Is Delaware going to pick up the cost for this?  As well, Markell did not issue an executive order to make this happen.  Are we now entering a stage in Delaware where the Governor can do whatever he wants as long as ten members of his own party write a letter to him?

This is clearly Markell’s strategy to once again thwart those who support the opt-out movement.  And he is doing this while at the same time spitting in the face of the General Assembly.  With the override of his House Bill 50 veto possibly coming up as early as January 14th, Markell is not pulling any punches to fight this.  I really hope the legislators who side with him on this issue think long and hard about his circumvention of the legislative process when it comes to Delaware education.  This is just another in a long series of moves the Governor made in the last eight years to make his corporate friends happy.

From the DOE press release:

SAT to replace Smarter in 11th grade

The SAT will replace the Smarter Assessment as the state test for high school juniors beginning this spring.

The change comes at the request of legislators and as the state continues to look for ways to reduce testing, particularly for 11th graders who already were taking both exams as part of Delaware’s state-funded School Day SAT program.

The College Board, the nonprofit that administers the college entrance exam, is launching a redesigned SAT this spring that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards, the academic expectations for what Delaware students should know and be able to do at the completion of each grade level. The changes to the SAT also include a move away from obscure “SAT vocabulary words” to the use of relevant vocabulary words in context, an in-depth focus on essential areas of math and the elimination of the guessing penalty.

“Our students deserve an exam that helps them gauge their college and career readiness, and our teachers deserve an exam that provides them with the information they need to guide their instruction. This is one example of how we are reducing the testing burden on our students and teachers,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said. “This is a smart solution that ensures our educators, students and families get the information they need while mitigating the over-testing concern many share.

The state will continue to administer the Smarter Assessment in grades 3 to 8.

Delaware has been administering a school-day SAT to all public school juniors at no cost to students since 2011. Godowsky said making the transition to use the SAT as the accountability test this year is based on the feedback of elected leaders, educators and families. Last week, 10 legislators sent a letter to Gov. Jack Markell asking to replace the 11th grade Smarter exam with the SAT.

“Our community was clear that this was in the best interest of our high school juniors and the sooner we could make the switch the better,” Godowsky said. “This decision is in response to that feedback.”

Gov. Jack Markell, who launched a statewide assessment inventory process last spring, said, “We believe that the concerns about the testing burden on our juniors are well founded.  We also agree that this move is a smart, commonsense way to reduce the testing burden significantly without sacrificing our ability to understand whether we are serving our students well and whether they are making the progress they need to be successful.  I have asked Secretary Godowsky to immediately designate the SAT as our 11th grade assessment and take all necessary steps to implement the change so that, beginning this year, juniors will no longer take Smarter Balanced.  The department will seek federal approval for this change in our state assessment as quickly as possible and otherwise ensure that the transition goes smoothly in schools across the state.”

Under Delaware’s former state test, the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS), 9th and 10th graders were tested. When the state moved to Smarter in Spring 2015, 11th grade became the singular testing year for high school. But many said that proved overwhelming for juniors, who also take Advanced Placement exams, the SAT, SAT subject tests, the ACT and other tests during their 11th grade year.

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Vicki Gehrt, president of the Delaware Chief School Officers Association, said superintendents in the state are in support of substituting the SAT in lieu of the Smarter Assessment as the required assessment for high school students.  This shift both gives teachers more time to provide necessary instruction and eases the load on our high school students with respect to the annual assessments they already must take.

State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray said students and families value the SAT.

“The redesigned SAT provides important information students, parents and educators want and need to understand students’ college, career and civic readiness. For that reason, it is already valued by parents and students.  In addition, by using this test as the high school assessment for English language arts and math, we will reduce the amount of required testing and costs to the state,” Gray said.

Last spring, the General Assembly passed and Governor Markell signed into law Senate Joint Resolution 2, requiring an inventory and review of all assessments currently administered at the state, district and school level “with the goal of decreasing the testing burden on students and teachers and increasing time available for teaching.”

This work continues. Districts and charter schools, which were eligible for supporting state grants, submitted their assessment inventories, recommendations, and impact information to the state at the end of December. The department has convened an assessment inventory committee with representatives from the House and Senate education committees, Delaware State Education Association, state superintendents, civil rights community and parents to make recommendations. The state’s final report must be published by June 2016.

Sen. David Sokola, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Rep. Earl Jaques, chair of the House Education Committee, lauded today’s announcement.

“This is the kind of change legislators were seeking when we approved SJR 2 to create a task force to fully review our student testing,” Sokola said. “This is a good first step toward removing burdens on our students and increasing instruction time for teachers, while also providing them with the important metrics needed to gauge student progress.”

Jaques agreed, “This decision eliminates duplicative testing and reduces over-testing while helping to ease student stress and parental concerns.”

The department has posted information and will continue updating its website with information, including resources for districts/charters and the public, regularly. Educators or families with questions may email assessment@doe.k12.de.us or call (302) 857-3391.

As students prepare for the spring SAT, they also have some extra help this year. A partnership with Khan Academy and the College Board offers personalized SAT preparation based on students’ PSAT results. Delaware also provides the PSAT free to all public school 10th graders.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006

Guide To The Delaware General Assembly, Legislation & Committees

The Delaware 148th General Assembly returns to legislative session on January 12th, 2016.  The General Assembly meets in public Tuesdays to Thursdays from the 2nd Tuesday in January until June 30th (or whenever the State Budget passes).  The General Assembly is divided into two houses: The House of Representatives which has 41 State Representatives and the Senate, with 21 State Senators.

The House of Representatives:

Speaker of the House: Pete Schwartzkopf, House Majority Leader: Valerie Longhurst, House Majority Whip: John Viola, House Minority Leader: Daniel Short, House Minority Whip: Deb Hudson

House Committees: Agriculture, Appropriations, Capital Infrastructure, Corrections, Economic Development/Banking/Insurance/Commerce, Education, Energy, Ethics, Gaming & Parimutuels, Health & Human Development, House Administration, House Rules, Housing & Community Affairs, Joint Finance, Judiciary, Labor, Manufactured Housing, Natural Resources, Public Safety & Homeland Security, Revenue & Finance, Sunset Committee (Policy Analysis & Government Accountability), Telecommunication Internet & Technology, Transportation/Land Use and Infrastructure, Veterans Affairs

The Senate:

President Pro Tempore: Patricia Blevins, Senate Majority Leader: David McBride, Senate Majority Whip: Margaret Rose Henry, Senate Minority Leader: Gary Simpson, Senate Majority Whip: Greg Lavelle, *normally, the Lieutenant Governor is the President of the Senate but since there is no Lieutenant Governor since Matt Denn became the Attorney General, the President Pro Tempore holds the function.

Senate Committees: Administrative Services/Elections, Adult & Juvenile Corrections, Agriculture, Banking and Business, Bond, Children Youth & Families, Community/County Affairs, Education, Energy & Transit, Ethics, Executive, Finance, Health & Social Services, Highways & Transportation, Insurance & Telecommunications, Judiciary, Labor & Industrial Relations, Legislative Council, Natural Resources & Environmental Control, Permanent Rules, Public Safety, Sunset, Veterans Affairs

Bill Process:

The below chart as shown on the General Assembly website, shows what happens when a bill is introduced.  Prior to a bill being filed, a State Representative of the House or a State Senator writes a bill.  They send it out to their fellow legislators for sponsorship.  It is very typical to see a bill co-sponsored by a House Rep. and a Senator.  But wherever the bill originates from this is the chamber it is heard in first.

BillProcessDelaware

Other Legislation:

The House and Senate both have Resolutions, Concurrent Resolutions, and Joint Resolutions.  A resolution refers to a matter within either the House or the Senate, not both.  A concurrent resolution is not statutory, meaning it does not change anything in the law.  For example, the Senate in the 147th General Assembly passed Senate Concurrent Resolution #63, which created the IEP Task Force.  The House had to approve it as well, but it didn’t have legislative power in that the task force created from it could create law.  They recommended different things which then became Senate Bill 33 in the 148th General Assembly.  A Joint Resolution has to be signed by the Governor once it passes both chambers.  As per the General Assembly website, “a joint resolution is not a law but is used to employ temporary measures and has the force of law while in effect.”  A recent example of this would be the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee.  The Senate handles Nominations.  These are typically nominations from the Governor.  It could be for committees outside of Legislative Hall, or even a Cabinet position, like the nomination hearing for Dr. Steven Godowsky at the end of October when he became the Secretary of Education for Delaware.  It can be very typical to see the Senate reconvening during their “off time” for a set of nominations.

Many bills are introduced, get assigned to a committee, and they just sit there.  Nothing happens with them.  Or it could be released from committee and goes on what is called the “ready list”, meaning the full chamber can vote on it.  But before the vote, it has to be put on the agenda, and either the Speaker of the House or the President Pro Tempore for the Senate holds the power to determine what gets put on the agenda and what doesn’t.

Most committees meet on Wednesdays, but some do meet on Tuesdays or Thursdays.  Committee meetings are open to the public and you do have the ability to give public comment in most situations.  The House releases minutes of their committee meetings but the Senate does not.  In the Senate as well, committee members do not have to be present at a meeting to release legislation from committee.  For both chambers, there is no set time for committee meetings each week.  The only requirement for public notice is for these meetings to have an agenda at least five days prior to the committee meeting and  list of which legislation is going to be discussed.  That is not always a guarantee the legislation will be heard in that committee meeting, which happened with House Bill 50 last year in the Senate Education Committee.  It was heard a week later, but there was also a very full docket of bills on the first agenda.  In terms of education legislation and committee meetings, I will be posting all of that on here, along with agendas and meeting times.  But for other committees you may be interested in I strongly suggest bookmarking the General Assembly website.

For the most part, the voting action by the full House or Senate takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  The typical day consists of both chambers opening up at 2pm.  This is open to the public, and this is where you will see House or Senate business discussion as well as “honorary” legislation.  As an example, House Concurrent Resolution #36 recognized Tourette Syndrome Awareness month.  When this part of the session ends, the House and Senate go into Caucus.  This is driven by the political party so the Democrats go to their caucus and the Republicans to their own.  Typically, the legislators return to session at 4pm, and this is where legislation on the Agenda gets a vote.  The public can attend but they are not allowed to speak to the legislators once the session begins until either a recess or termination of the session.

In my experience at Legislative Hall, I have found all of the legislators to be nice people.  They are all friendly and responsive to the public.  Even the ones you may be at odds with over issues.  They are also insanely busy, exponentially so as the months go by.  The best way to get your concerns out is to contact your district State Representative or Senator, but I talk to a lot of legislators not in my district.  If you go to the top of the stairs at Legislative Hall, you will see chairs in the lobby.  This is where you see a lot of folks dressed very nice, usually huddled in conversation or very quiet, just waiting.  These are the lobbyists.  Their job is to sway votes for certain issues for their bosses.  There is no easier way to put it.

If there is certain legislation you may want to see, understand a State Rep. or Senator most likely isn’t going to just jump on it.  My best advice would be to get others involved who may want to see the same type of legislation and have them contact the legislators in your district.  Your chances are better if your issue becomes their issue.  That doesn’t always happen with one voice, but several.  If, for some reason, you don’t feel your district legislators are responding, it may help to reach out to another legislator.  It is a very tricky process.  I would present your collective idea with research to back it up and make sure it is something that could be done without changing the Delaware Constitution.  Legislation stating Delaware would now have three Governors or five chambers in Legislative Hall just isn’t going to happen!

The General Assembly works in two year blocks of time.  We are entering the second half of the 148th General Assembly, so any legislation that doesn’t pass or doesn’t receive a vote by June 30th is dead.  Any legislation still active or pending from the first half of the 148th General Assembly is still alive, even though the legislators were in recess (with a few exceptions) for six months.  In 2017, the 149th General Assembly will begin, which will run until 6/30/18.  The entire House of Representatives is up for re-election every two years.  Senators typically have four-year terms.  This year, 11 out of the 21 Senators are up for re-election.

Getting involved in the legislative process is not as hard as it seems.  Your voice is important.  Find other voices that feel the same and let them be heard.  Showing up in person is usually the best, but emails, phone calls, and Social Media are just as important.